The contentious Legal Aid Bill has caused huge disquiet in the legal profession and also in the House of Lords, who have blocked the bill again earlier this week. Some say that time is running out for this controversial bill as the government has suffered a fresh round of defeats in the House of Lords over the austerity plans to cut legal aid.
The most recent problem has been caused in relation cuts to legal aid for domestic violence sufferers, which would only be offered in very few circumstances. Ruth Bond, chair of the National Federation of Women's Institutes, welcomed the defeat over domestic violence. "It is very positive that the Lords have listened to the concerns of those fighting to protect victims of domestic violence and sent the bill back to the Commons for further debate," she said.
Additionally, the amendments have proposed that only people who are at threat of an eviction will receive legal aid, in relation to housing. This has been criticised greatly, as it would be more cost effective to offer people help at an earlier stage, rather than wait for them to become legally aidable by threat of eviction.
Furthermore, campaigners warn that if the bill is passed in its original form it will leave some of the country's most vulnerable people without recourse to advice if they face a problem regarding welfare and benefits. The Citizens Advice Bureau states that the timing of the legislation is particularly unfortunate, given that the ongoing reform of incapacity and disability benefits has thrown up so many difficulties, causing people to require assistance.
As a volunteer for the Citizen's Advice Bureau myself, I have seen the impact of the cuts already. I agree with Lady Scotland, who has been fighting to protect the most vulnerable people in our society, stating: "If we cannot afford to protect women, children and men who are in this position then I have to say we are a very poor country indeed."